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The VCA has agreed to try to put together a list of issues and questions which could be used to generate debate in the 1997 municipal elections. This includes all levels of local government - regional, city/municipality and school board. Anyone wishing to add to the list, or debate the inclusion of anything below, should post to the general discussion area of the VCA or e-mail the information manager (aa686).
My preference is first to state our expectations and ask questions second.
My expectations for the new Councils are:
I do not have any questions to suggest at the moment.
Just a start.
Whether a wet meadow, an uplands forest, a riparian edge, or even bare bedrock, all have value and contribute to our ability to continue to inhabit this land. I suggested in a letter to the City's Natural and Open Spaces Study that the process, to be effective, needed to be turned on its head. Rather than paying scads of money to develop a hierarchical listing of sites that should be preserved from development, we should be pro-actively identifying 'preferred' sites 'for' development. This sort of a list would be of immense value to our politicians, our city staff, and members of Committee of Adjustment.
In this way, we would be focussing our energy and money on identifying those locations where future development would have the minimum impact on the natural, social and economic environment in the city. It would also help rescue the citizens of the city from an absurd exercise in which the onus is put on volunteers to identify and justify specific sites for protection on an inconceivably 'micro' scale.
What the proces is really about is 'where should we allow future development?'. Wouldn't it make sense to phrase the question that way, and get the maximum return for energy, time and money invested?
From the NOSS workshop, 22 Oct 96, there were official definitions used for:
When people start to talk about 20% of Ottawa should be greenspace, there is no definition yet. There isn't even a hierarchy to indicate which type of area is a subset or another area. We don't even know if NCC Federal Land should be included as part of the city's percentages.
It may become very important to define the percentages for each type such as "5% natural areas", "10% open spaces", "2% woodland", etc., and regardless of the level of government that owns the land.
In reading a report from the Third International Conference of Administrative Sciences (Beijing, October 1996), I was struck by a number of points which I thought relevant to our discussions here, especially regarding the issues for consideration in the election year. Here are some of those points with the questions that might be asked as a result of them:
1) Under conditions of the global economy, the role of government has taken on new dimensions. Ordinary people now understand more ways in which public policies may affect them and what, for example, is at stake in trade negotiations, or the level of budget deficit.
2) For these and a panoply of other reasons, how we govern and administer ourselves, how we balance forces, how we ensure adequate "voice" from all parties and groups in society, how we respond with equitable treatment and provide frameworks for economic opportunity have become matters of serious political concern in most of our societies.
3) An efficient administration means a responsive one. It does not lose sight of the fact that government is for people and that the objective of public action and public services is to protect their rights and promote their well-being as human beings.
4) The qualities essential for responsive service delivery are: transparency, client participation, satisfying client requirements and accessibility. ... In addition to getting the services citizens need, the above qualities could be usefully operationalized as follows: - citizens or enterprises participate in or are consulted about decisions on what level and type of service is to be provided, - they are informed as to what level and types of service are to be provided, - they can reasonably expect to receive this level of service, - they have rights of complaint and redress if the appropriate level of service is not provided, - service delivery agencies are required to set service quality targets and to report their performance against them.
5) While methods of being responsive vary, the factors motivating improvement include budget pressures to deliver more with less, public demand for better, more targeted services and concern to clarify the role and legitimacy of government. The last factor includes how best to involve and consult with citizens, how best to specify levels of service, and how to determine the limits and conditions of what public authorities should provide in relation to other providers. Increasing use of the notion of citizens as client or customer has raised complex issues of accountability by who to whom. Articulate pressure groups have by their advocacy fuelled the difficulties in sorting out those relationships and the standards of service to be retained.
6) Citizens are seeking new ways to express their "voice" and they have the tools to do this. How best to consult on public decisions and policies, programmes and services is one of the major issues which contemporary governments have to solve. They must keep watch on the implications of such processes for the longer term and what precedents may be set in respect of consultative processes employed. Furthermore, they must determine how to maximize the benefits, and reduce the costs of consultation.
7) Governments are seeking to extend consultation in order to increase policy effectiveness and compliance. Yet, such processes bring real costs. They risk provoking unwanted opposition and raised expectations. At then end of the day, views may not be representative enough. There may be even accusations of circumventing established political processes.
8) It is obvious that an efficient administration is one that knows its clientele, and can usefully dialogue with it. Yet there may be limits on how much consultation is desirable, how far citizens themselves actually want to participate. Part of some disillusions with government may be a backlash to what are seen, however unfairly, as gimmicky or lip- service consultation.
9) Three overriding factors militate in favour of developing a good consultative culture and the skills in the administration to implement it. First, traditional public policy processes and representative democracy need to be informed by more consultation at the administrative level (but not controlled by it at the expense of tradition political processes). Second, individual, more knowledgeable citizens will become more strident and articulate: responsive administrations must meet their demands. Third, competing interests will become stronger and more vociferous. A proactive policy to canvas views and needs through process (if necessary by consciously helping badly represented groups) is the only way to ensure a degree of balance in promoting the public interest.
10) There are few political rewards for pre-emptive thinking and far-sightedness as opposed to mediatically "successful" reaction to immediate crises makes the task of government adaptation harder.
11) Five dimensions of the Capacity to Renew which are central to meeting the challenge of creating an efficient administration, which serves the people in a responsive way: - redefining and restating the mission of government - selecting and designing policy instruments - opening up civil service development - educating people about government - building strategic capacity to change public institutions.
12) With a few notable exceptions, good governance in general, and good administration specifically, rarely excite politicians. Most questions require long-term solutions, with undramatic results well beyond the media's attention span. Resistance, especially the bureaucratic kind is soon mobilized.
13) Thus an overarching condition for the next century is to ensure firm rooting of institutional development as an integral part of government policies, and hence a political matter. The Capacity to Respond and the Capacity to Renew depend upon it. Politicians more than anyone must see that task at two levels: managing the existing structures to maintain maximum efficiency, first, but, above all, raising their sights to the broader issues of governance.